Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding: the film

First off, I should let you know that tomorrow I'll be posting an exclusive Q&A with the scriptwriter of Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, Mary Henely Magill - so, look forward to that!

I saw the film last week (incidentally, it is now available on DVD), and I'll confess that I was a bit nervous before I went.  As quite a few of us said in the fab discussion we had here, the novel (novella?) felt quite unfilmable.  And the reviews weren't all hugely positive... although mostly they seemed upset that it wasn't Downton Abbey.  (Why on earth should it be?)  One even complained that it wasn't very cheerful, and irony exploded.  Well, I've got to say - with one or two reservations, I thought it was really good.  I'd definitely recommend getting hold of the DVD, if you can't get to a screening.

I'm going to assume I skip a synopsis, because you can just read the novel review above, if you don't know what's what.  So instead, because I don't really know how to structure a film review without a synopsis, I'm going to give you my thoughts in bullet points... just below the film trailer.



1) As you can see from the trailer, the film is beautifully shot.  That's usually a damn-with-faint-praise comment, but I don't see why it should be.  Every frame was sumptuous, whether interior or exterior.  A golden, hazy spring day was as strikingly gorgeous as a sharp winter's morning in a bedroom.  Even if the script and acting had been appalling (which they certainly weren't), it would be a delicious film to watch.

2.) Felicity Jones was the Big Name for the film, and she was good, but I think the best people were Ellie Kendrick as Kitty, Elizabeth McGovern as Mrs. Thatcham, and Fenella Woolgar as Nancy.  Let's look at them one by one...

3.) Ellie Kendrick was so wonderful as Anne Frank in a TV series about her a while ago, and she was equally wonderful here.  Her Kitty was precocious, spontaneous, affectionate, and witty.  The most engaging character on screen, for my money.

4.) We all know Elizabeth McGovern for her Downton performance nowadays, but she was signed up for Cheerful Weather for the Wedding first.  On the page, Mrs. Thatcham is unbelievably absent-minded.  McGovern brings that across, but also makes her realistically stern and single-minded.

5.) I don't remember Nancy in the novel, but the dynamic between her and husband David were a wonderful part of the film.  Fenella Woolgar is so brilliant at the brisk barbed comment or sardonic murmur.  A total joy.

6.) From the main trio - James Norton's Owen was as much a nonentity on screen as on the page, but that's the way it should be.  Luke Treadaway was fantastic as Joseph, in both impassioned and frivolous scenes, and Felicity Jones put it in a thoughtful performance as bride-to-be Dolly.

7.) I loved how, from the opening notes of the score onwards, the film captured the hysterical madness of the narrative.  Especially in the first half, the frenetic, overlapping conversations and muddled characters was done really well - with the right level of detachment from genuine emotional concerns.

8.) The flip-side of this are the extended flashback scenes, and a deep-and-meaningful between Joseph and Dolly on the day of the wedding.  I know opinions differ on this, but for my money, the characters in Julia Strachey's novel aren't intended to be sympathetic.  It doesn't really matter what they think and feel, because they're all grotesques, and the point of the book is to be a madcap romp through events.  Which meant I didn't buy the emotional scenes between Dolly and Joseph, which seemed to dilute the tone of the film.  You can't really have your cake and eat it - either it's a surreal comedy, or it's a poignant one.  I think it would have been better to avoid making the characters at all sympathetic (same goes for the film of Angel), although I understand that that would make it harder to pitch or market.

9.) It *is* a really funny film.  The cinema was filled with laughter on many occasions.  The trailer goes a bit slapsticky, but the film itself isn't, and most of the humour came from dialogue and facial expressions.

10.) The socks weren't emerald green!  My favourite bit!  But that is something I asked Mary... come back tomorrow to find out her answer to that and other questions...

18 comments:

  1. Aha! I was wondering if you were going to post about the film. I watched the film trailer and the impressions I received from that brief glimpse you've identified perfectly.

    I thought (from the trailer)that the film looked like it was going to take on the poignant & meaningful aspect, where the book really doesn't go there - it's cynical through & through. The film trailer looked beautiful, and the book is filled with perfect visual vignettes.

    I still have to post my own review - of the book - I've read the book twice, and the review's sitting here 2/3 done but I can't quite seem to get it launched - but I'm quite happy to have discovered Strachey & read everyone else's thoughts on this stylistic and rather dark little novella.

    Would love to watch the film one day - sounds like it would be worth the time, even though it departs from the original.

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    1. I suppose it would be very difficult to do a whole film without delving a little deeper into the characters and trying to make them sympathetic - I'm very glad they managed to keep the feel of the original in so many instances.

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  2. You know, I think I can handle attempts to make the characters sympathetic (though I think that is a shame and violates the spirit of the novel) and I am so happy to hear the the film is funny but how could the socks not be green! How could any colour be half so outrageous and offensive?

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    1. I know! Mary was sweet about it, but I really don't understand why details are changed when they don't add anything to the film - like making the baby a girl rather than a boy in The L-Shaped Room film. (They also made the heroine French, rather than English, which was a bizarre decision.) If I could change one thing in the film, it would probably be the socks...

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  3. I went to see the film too, you having mentioned it. Not having read the book, I did find the main characters sympathetic, but this didn't affect my enjoyment of the film. It was very funny and all the characters were convincing. The contrast between the claustrophobia of the house and the flashbacks definitely worked in my opinion - I found myself desperate to get "out" of the house at times.

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    1. I thought I saw you there, Rebekah! I meant to check and say hello, but we left before the end.

      I was surprised how Mary and the director talked about the audience wanting to escape the house - obviously that technique worked for you! - I loved the winter house, and didn't find it claustrophobic. The hazy spring days were extraordinarily beautiful, though.

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  4. It does seem to be a law of filmaking that there have to be some 'sympathetic' characters - dead right about the same happening in the adaptation of Elizabeth Taylor's Angel. I remember watching an interview with the director Francois Ozon who said that he thought he needed to make Angel more sympathetic, and the relationship with Esme a more convincing love story, in order to make the film successful. In the end it wasn't one thing or another - not a convincing romance, and definitely not Taylor's cool dissection of a pretty monstrous character.

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    1. I am torn about Angel, because I love Romola Garai so much - but I wish Ozon had had the courage to go the whole way with Angel's selfisness and unlovable nature! But Taylor had her claws out more than most could stomach...

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  5. Can't wait to see the film although I don't remember a Nancy either.

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    1. I could forgive that change, cos she was so awesome.

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  6. Thanks to Mrs W. who kindly lent me her DVD I watched this last night. Thought the costumes & settings were gorgeous & the film was certainly amusing in places but I'm afraid that I felt it was let down by the 2 leads. I'm afraid that goggle eyed pouting (both male & female) to express love/lust/whatever they thought they were expressing got really wearing after a while.
    Loved the tortoise tho. (and the confetti bombs)

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    1. Oo, ouch! Just imagine how much more pouting would have been done by Keira Knightley...

      I think 'Loved the tortoise tho' is the best pay-off to a mini-review EVER.

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  7. One of my problems with the book was that the characters are shallow and unsympathetic, so I didn't care what happened to anyone. Although I had my doubts about the film, maybe I'll like it more than I thought! I'll definitely be looking out for the dvd - my daughters are both Luke Treadaway fans so I guess we'll be getting it whatever it's like!

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    1. You probably will appreciate it more, if you felt that was lacking in the book! It's certainly a gentler approach to character, in the film.

      I didn't know Luke Treadaway *had* fans! I hadn't heard of him til a month or two ago... I'm so behind the times.

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  8. So, barn dance...? I keep hearing those words. Was there really a barn dance? (I almost don't want to know!).

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    1. Ha! There was, but I wouldn't worry - it didn't ruin it or anything. I thought it worked better than a lot of other last-summer-flashback elements. The frenzy was truer to the novel than the moments of deep emotional interaction.

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  9. I love Fenella Woolgar. I must see if I can find a copy of this. And if I wasn't so focused on A Century of Books, I would go back and re-read the book.

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    1. I'd never heard of her before, but I'll definitely be seeking out more of her work - especially if she's done more comedy.

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